I (Eric) recently attended a couple of meetings involving faith leaders, business owners, politicians, City Council members, and city workers as we discussed ways in which to meet the needs of the ‘chronically poor’ in our city, as well as ways to encourage growth, vitality, and flourishing of downtown Billings. For the most part, my day to day activities take place in what I refer to as my parish, the geographic area within walking or biking distance of my home and work. Most of these activities take place in the South Side, but often I find myself in downtown as well. Since my family and I moved to Billings five years ago, I have been greatly encouraged to watch firsthand the development and improvement of our downtown area. Whether it is the new and improved Angry Hanks, one of the best burger joints in town – the Burger Dive, the amazing Rockets, or gathering spots like Rock Creek Coffee Roasters, our downtown area is becoming a desirable destination. So, as I sat in these meetings, I was thankful for the creative people that care for and are working toward the betterment of our city. They are incredibly talented, creative, and innovative, to say the least. But as much as I personally enjoy and cherish the re-development of the downtown area (as well as our efforts to re-develop the South Side), one word was heavy upon my heart – lostness.
According to merriam-webster.com, lostness is defined as being ‘unable to find the way’ and ‘hopelessly unattainable’. Let those words sink in… unable to find the way and hopelessly unattainable. At the end of the day, our best efforts to re-develop dilapidated buildings, champion economic growth, and foster a vibrant urban center, apart from the saving grace of Jesus Christ, we are all still lost. The best city-wide initiatives fail to address the deeper need that exists within the heart of every person. Matthew 9:35-38 says,
“Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. He said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields’” (NLT).
How I love the life, example, and teaching of Jesus. Here He was, out among the people – the rich, poor, healthy, sick, religious, and Gentiles – announcing the Good News as He healed every kind of disease and sickness. As we read from the gospels, we also know that He fed the multitudes, ministered to the hearts of the broken, rose the dead back to life, and dined with people of all walks of life. But as He did so, He shared the Good News… that He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6) and that He came to give life, and do so abundantly (John 10:10). Does this not strike a chord with every human heart? Aren’t we all lost, confused and helpless, like wandering sheep? At the core of every person is this longing, to know the One for whom we have been created. And it is in this that we find hope amidst the lostness, that Jesus came to live, die, and rise again in order to bring us back to God.
Lostness. My heart breaks for the lost our city and world. For those who are yet to experience the forgiveness and life God intended for us, a life of knowing Him. I’m thankful for the re-development of our community and city, but may we, those who believe and walk in the footsteps of Christ, see the greater need that exists all around us, that of our ‘lostness’. I pray that we might walk in faithful engagement to be the people of God, a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that (we) may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called (us) out of darkness into His marvelous light, for once (we) were not a people, but now (we) are the people of God; (we) had not received mercy, but now (we) have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10, NASB).
Press on brothers and sisters, in great hope, for He will fulfill His promise of gathering His lost sheep, people of every nation, tribe, and tongue. Thanks be to our marvelous King!